TO MEET the demand for maritime workers in the Hunter, TAFE NSW plans to produce a pipeline of future workers. Maritime courses will be offered at numerous locations across the state including Newcastle and the Hunter, from entry level to Advanced Diploma. TAFE NSW Director of Supply Chain and eCommerce Chris Greentree said the investment will drive higher skills demand across a range of maritime and supply chain jobs for places like the Port of Newcastle. "It's one of the largest exporters of grain, coal and alumina with over 2,200 commercial vessels docking each year," he said. "There are a wide range of job roles from deckhands, marine mechanics and engineers to logistic and warehousing coordinators that keep this critical supply chain moving." In the last 12 months, Newcastle's marine transport professionals have grown by 31 per cent and Mr Green said people studying at TAFE NSW, could get ahead and kickstart their maritime career. "...Choosing from a range of accredited courses providing in-demand skills and industry licensing to get ahead," he said. The initiative comes after the Federal government announced its commitment to improve future maritime capability with a strategic fleet, after identifying a maritime skills crisis. The fleet is made up of up to 12 vessels to help Australia build resilience to freight disruptions while supporting workers and sovereign capability. The fleet would be relied on in times of national crisis and emergency, helping get vital goods to affected regions. CEO of Maritime Industry Australia Ltd (MIAL) Angela Gillham said the TAFE courses would help to fill a gap in the industry. "Australia's maritime training institutions will play a crucial role in skilling the workforce we need to capitalise on the expanding and diversifying activity in this sector," she said. "The pipeline of maritime workers they are building is crucial to the success of this Strategic Fleet - and the Australian shipping industry." "The gradual decline in our sovereign fleet over the past two decades means Australia is almost entirely reliant on foreign shipping. "Recent supply chain shocks, natural disasters, and the critical maritime skills shortage have all demonstrated the need for the increased national resilience that an enhanced sovereign shipping industry will bring." Nautical Institute South East Australia Branch chairperson Commodore Kit Rynd FNI said the strategic fleet initiative is a vital investment in Australia's economic prosperity. "As one of Australia's leading providers of maritime training in both coastal and ocean seafaring, TAFE's role is critical to ensuring the viability of the Strategic Fleet investment."